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Life in a Group Home

July 21, 2005 permalink

In reporting on a rape, the Ottawa Sun gives a picture of life inside a group home that is not what you see in the warm cuddly brochures from social services. These homes for teenagers are really prisons.



Rape no surprise to staff

'Outbursts' common at group home

IT WAS only a matter of a time before a staff member was attacked and seriously injured at a Kanata group home, former and current employees said yesterday.

Several employees, who asked their names not be used due to confidentiality agreements they're required to sign, said there is often only one worker to deal with as many as four troubled youth in the home.

It's where an adult female employee was struck over the head with a bottle, tied up and raped last Friday. A 15-year-old boy has been charged with aggravated sexual assault, forcible confinement and assault with a weapon among other charges. He cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

"The kids have outbursts, which were pretty regularly," said one former employee. "Yelling, screaming, punching holes in the wall, which is not uncommon in a group home."

The employee said staff are alone with teens and kids up to the age of 17, including overnight and during the day. It's only during the evening hours that there are two employees.


Four youths live in the house where the assault occurred.

"Staff were assaulted. It was hitting and biting but never anything to this kind of degree," the employee said, adding she worried about her and her co-workers' safety.

According to employees, there are on-call supervisors and staff have access to a panic pager.

A staff meeting has been called for later this week at homes for both Youth Continuum, where the assault occurred, and the Brindle Agency, which manages several other Kanata group homes. It's expected scheduling and policies will be discussed during the meeting.

The owner of the group homes, Phil Brindle, declined to comment yesterday on the sex assault and what steps are being taken to prevent future attacks.

Ottawa police said they have completed their investigation and indicated there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the group home.


Officials for both the Children's Aid Society, which sends youth to the home, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which licenses group homes, would not comment on whether an investigation was under way.

Neither agency would provide the Sun with details about what guidelines privately run group homes are expected to follow, instead referring the question to the other.

The CAS says the group home is provided a daily amount for each at-risk youth it takes in.

Youth "that are in group homes ... would have behavioural issues stemming from mental health or historical abuse," said CAS spokeswoman France Clost.

A former resident of the house, who knows the accused, said it wasn't unusual for there to be trouble in the group home.

"It depends on the night," said the 17-year-old, who spent nearly two years in the house where the sex assault occurred. He admitted there was occasional "pushing and shoving" of staff, but said it was rare that a resident would throw punches or resort to other violence.

Source: Ottawa Sun